Jamaica and China's golden 50: Special bonds of friendship
Updated 16:14, 24-Nov-2022
Antonia Hugh
Jamaica and China's golden 50: Special bonds of friendship

Jamaica and China's golden 50 Special bonds of friendship.mp3


Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Antonia Hugh is ambassador of Jamaica to China. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

As the Ambassador of Jamaica to the People's Republic of China, I welcome this opportunity to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and the People's Republic of China, and to celebrate the special bonds of friendship, which our two countries have enjoyed over these 50 years.

On November 21, 1972, Jamaica proudly created diplomatic history when it became the first English-speaking Caribbean island to support the one-China principle, and establish diplomatic relations with China. Since then, Jamaica and China have made remarkable progress in fostering a strong, dynamic, and vibrant partnership.

Jamaica and China have longstanding people-to-people engagement, which goes beyond 50 years, dating as far back as 1849, when the first cohort of Chinese arrived in the island, followed by a larger cohort in 1854. The 1972 landmark Agreement was, therefore, a consolidation of the special relationship that had long existed between our peoples. 

In this regard, we celebrate the fact that today, Chinese Jamaicans have been wonderfully woven into the fabric of Jamaican society and have become an inseparable part of our vibrant cultural heritage. Chinese in Jamaica and Jamaicans of Chinese descent have contributed greatly to Jamaica's economy, particularly in the areas of retail, banking and the culinary arts, as well as in the political and musical spheres.

The special relationship between Jamaica and China is underpinned by deep mutual respect and shared values, and is continuously reinforced by our extensive cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. 

In this connection, both countries have consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the development of a sustained technical and functional cooperation program, which has allowed us to forge and maintain our dynamic and mutually beneficial partnership.

Within a global context, the People's Republic of China has made an indelible mark on almost every sphere of human endeavor, including in the arts, medicine, education, economics, engineering, science and technology, just to name a few – and as a result, the world is looking to China as a key driver of global economic development, and a partner in addressing common challenges. 

China is also home to the world's largest population. This ancient civilization with a legacy of innovation and focused determination, has become the world's largest manufacturing economy and the largest exporter of goods, achieving strong, sustained economic growth and inclusive development for its people.

We wish to commend China on its accomplishment of eradicating extreme poverty. We are impressed by the fact that China has met the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development target 10 years ahead of schedule and thus has contributed to greatly to global poverty reduction. 

We admire China's steadfast commitment to the goal of modernization and its relentless pursuit of situating the needs of the people within that mandate and we look forward with anticipation, to the unfolding of its modernization plan from 2020 through to 2035 and beyond.

In light of the foregoing, I would also like to commend China for pursuing, with the same tenacity it pursues national development, international outreach and in particular, South-South Cooperation, through which Jamaica has benefited tremendously.

Through our bilateral cooperation agreements and initiatives, the government of China has provided invaluable support to Jamaica particularly in the areas of infrastructure development, health, and education. 

Today, China stands as one of the key partners in Jamaica's drive for infrastructural development and modernization. Across Jamaica, there are many examples of this fruitful partnership, including the new fit-for-purpose headquarters of the Foreign Ministry and the outstanding Edward Seaga Highway, which connects the north and south of the country.

Jamaicans are appreciative of China's instrumental role in the achievement of our social development goals. Given the critical role that education plays in development, China has sought to make meaningful contributions to Jamaica's education landscape. 

Through China's medical scholarship program, the dreams of many ambitious Jamaican students who aspire to pursue medicine are financed and supported. Hundreds of other students have been awarded scholarships to pursue studies in China at top universities and all have expressed their gratitude at the opportunity to use what they have learned in China to build their country. 

Within this vein, I am reminded that many Jamaican teachers have been assigned to work across China's provinces, thereby improving their individual economic realities in practical and fulfilling way.

It is often said that "hard times reveal good friends" and so I would like to seize this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Chinese government and people for their support and assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably among the most difficult years of our lives. Throughout this pandemic we observed how the Chinese spirit of solidarity, resilience and innovation has led a nation to rebound from the pandemic with renewed agility.

Blue Mountain coffee products at the Jamaica pavilion during the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, east China, November 6, 2018. /Xinhua
Blue Mountain coffee products at the Jamaica pavilion during the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, east China, November 6, 2018. /Xinhua

Blue Mountain coffee products at the Jamaica pavilion during the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, east China, November 6, 2018. /Xinhua

We observed how China, in the midst of its own trials and challenges, chooses continuously, to cling to hope and extend its goodwill by helping other countries including my own. In this connection, I reiterate our gratitude for China's commitment in the construction of the Western Children's and Adolescents' Hospital in Montego Bay, another first in the English-speaking Caribbean.

China and Jamaica elevated relations to that of a strategic partnership in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Andrew Holness to China. This was a watershed moment in our history, which followed the groundwork laid in previous official visits and high-level exchanges, including when we opened the Jamaican Embassy in China's capital Beijing in 2005; and Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Jamaica in 2009, when he was Vice President.

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, Jamaica intends to increase the frequency and scope of our policy dialogue with China. We look forward to developing innovative and lasting platforms for direct interaction between policymakers, business, and other vital segments of society. We also look forward to finalizing more groundbreaking agreements and MOUs, which will serve to build mutual understanding to create more opportunities for commerce and social programs to thrive.

On a cultural note, cognizant of the fact that Jamaican products provide Chinese people with enriched and diversified access to new cultural experiences, we will continue producing and exporting consistent volumes of the luxurious Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee to China. We will also seek to provide more delicious lobsters and aged rum and continue to share the magic of Reggae music with the beautiful people of China. Similarly, we encourage landmark institutions such as the Confucius Institute, established at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, to enhance the dissemination of Chinese history and culture among Jamaicans.

On this, our Golden Jubilee – our Golden 50, let us seize this historic opportunity to promote our "win-win" relationship under the guidance of our leaders and endeavor to continue making solid contributions to building a community with a shared future for humanity.

Happy 50th anniversary Jamaica and China!

Happy Golden Jubilee!

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